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White Lies

One would think on hearing Ealing lads, WHITE LIES, they’d stepped down from a rain-soaked north rather than stemming from luminous London. Committing themselves to a sound more in line with EDITORS, BRITISH SEA POWER and DOVES, and the lineage these dark doomsters themselves attach onto (JOY DIVISION, ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN and The TEARDROP EXPLODES), WHITE LIES worry little about tags and post-punk references.
Formed in 2004, while still at school in the west side of their home city, Harry McVeigh (vocals/guitar), lyricist Charles Cave (bass/vocals) and Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums/keyboards) went under the radar – so to speak – when they initially masqueraded as Fear Of Flying. For three years, their somewhat dated neo-Britpop affiliation picked up a few friends along the way, notably Stephen Street, who produced the trio’s debut 7”, `Routemaster’. By the end of 2006, the Young And Lost Club imprint issued the band’s follow-up single, `Three’s A Crowd’, but Fear Of Flying were running on empty creatively.
The bold and brave change to WHITE LIES came about in the autumn of 2007, and the reasons were clear in that their music had taken a darker, sombre side. The gloomy `Unfinished Business’ re-opened their independent account in fine style, and led to the group inking a deal with Fiction Records, a label more associated with the 80s, The CURE and er… The ASSOCIATES. `Death’ was committed to vinyl in September ‘08, a minor hit and opening salvo from the trio’s Ed Buller and Max Dingel-produced debut album, TO LOSE MY LIFE… (2008) {*8}. Bolstered by the Top 40 title track and the similarly-fruitful `Farewell To The Fairground’, the set hit the top of the charts and was almost immediately a contender (although not a winning one) for the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.
Live additions Tommy Bowen and Rob Lee were in place as the expanded band promoted their well-received sophomore set, RITUAL (2011) {*8}. Darker, deeper and detached, the record was certainly Old Blighty’s answer to scene-stealers, INTERPOL, and, with songs such as `Bigger Than Us’ (a minor hit), the soaring `Strangers’ and the sour JOY DIVISION-esque, `Streetlights’, WHITE LIES had come of age.
Their third successive Top 5 set, BIG TV (2013) {*7}, also made inroads into the hard-to-crack American market. Sweepingly romanticised and anthemic, returning producer Ed Buller extracted the best out of the baritone McVeigh and Co, while symphonic discharges and electro-beats were behind a few of the cuts. Probably still in search of their own “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, `There Goes Our Love Again’ (although more upbeat) came close to giving WHITE LIES another hit of sorts – if downloading was one’s bag. `First Time Caller’, `Getting Even’ and the Bunnymen-ish `Be Your Man’, might yet convince a global market to hook into the combo’s cloudy catharses.
Probably sick to the back teeth with comparisons to all and sundry, the brooding trio approached their fourth set – the near Top 10 FRIENDS (2016) {*7} – with a desire to find their own centre of rock-music gravity. Much like pop peers KAISER CHIEFS (who, incidentally released their album the same week), WHITE LIES now dropped into an 80s meeting of A-HA, BLANCMANCE and The TEARDROP EXPLODES. Nevertheless, McVeigh’s strengthening vocal grip and range among the buoyant electronic flourishes had a certain panache that was hard to dismiss. Somehow it all gelled among the Italia/MORODER-type trails of `Take It Out On Me’, `Morning In LA’, `Hold Back Your Love’, `Is My Love Enough?’ and `Come On’.
Without working out the logic behind the aptly-named Ed Buller/Alan Moulder/self-produced FIVE (2019) {*8} album, WHITE LIES reached out somewhat into electro-prog terrain; the 7-minute opening salvo, `Time To Give’, a perfect example of their slight INTERPOL-versus-DEPECHE MODE-like detour. Ironically, now switching from BMG to PIAS Records, McVeigh and Co’s commercial clout had dropped to its lowest ebb ever (hp#14). Follow-on track, `Never Alone’, no doubt drew some inspiration from the cascading-waterfall effect that donned JOY DIVISION’s doom-laden `Atmosphere’, but all ‘n’ all, if the truth be known, WHITE LIES’ fanbase were, on the whole, delighted. On another note, however, their widescreen sing-a-long singles, `Tokyo’ and `Believe It’, couldn’t quite match the head-spinning/JULIAN COPE-induced semi-classic finale, `Fire And Wings’.
© MC Strong/MCS Aug2013-Jun2019

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